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With the second installation of the World Baseball Classic now in full swing, seven Astros, headlined by Roy Oswalt, Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada and LaTroy Hawkins, have left the friendly confines of the Houston Astros spring training complex in Kissimmee, Florida to join their national teams. Because of the WBC, spring training has been lengthened an additional two weeks to hopefully help offset any time that is missed that players would normally have with their parent clubs. This is a golden opportunity for Houston manager, Cecil Cooper, now in his second full season at the helm, and his coaches to evaluate players that may not have had as many chances to showcase their skills. It also provides pitchers a couple of extra starts and a few more innings of work to stretch out their arms, work out the kinks of the off-season or refine the mechanics of their pitching motions. This is not a bad situation for Cooper and his band of coaches, as there are numerous questions surrounding the starting rotation behind Roy Oswalt, the third base job and the opening at the catcher position. That process began today as the Astros took on the perennial AL East powerhouse, New York Yankees.

Houston Astros hats & merchandise Mike Hampton was the starter and was scheduled to pitch three innings but was forced to leave after the second due to a high pitch count. Hampton yielded 4 runs on 6 hits, with three of those runs coming in the first inning. Chad Paronto and Wesley Wright pitched three scoreless innings and Jose Valverde pitched a scoreless frame notching 2 punch outs. Russ Ortiz continued his strong spring showing tossing three innings, yielding 1 run on 1 hit and tallying 3 strikeouts. This is the second consecutive poor start for Hampton and after the game he stated, "The most important thing is I felt good out there. The results weren't what I wanted, but for the most part, I was able to use both sides of the plate, use all my pitches and my body felt good as well." Despite his poor showing thus far, Hampton is going to see more playing time and will get every opportunity to prove that he can get his pitches on target as the spring progresses.

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Though the Astros scored 5 runs today, the only starter that has had any kind of impact this spring has been Lance Berkman. Chris Johnson and Drew Sutton continued their torrid spring proving that both are quite capable of handling big league pitching. Pitching prospect turned centerfielder, Brian Bogusevic continues to have a strong spring showing as well. Humberto Quintero and Lou Palmisano have both struggled mightily and have yet to log a hit thus far. Both should see more playing time but expect to see JR Towles and Lou Santangelo a bit more as the spring wears on.


By: Jordan Fleck
MLBcenter.com Houston Astros correspondent

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